It is not always about a fresh start

In an industry where the main product is all about creativity, it is of course natural for advertising industry to put a lot of emphasis on newness. Moreover, as innovation is a dominant theme of this age, again, it’s not very surprising to see the deep fascination that the advertising industry has shown towards the idea of beginning something new.

But have we gravitated a bit too far towards the idea of newness? Because our industry is not only about inventing new things.

Advertising industry is a phenomenon of the modern age. Following the logic of modern industry, everything is designed so that we could produce something better than what was produced yesterday. Receiving a brief, brewing a campaign, releasing the campaign to the market, and that’s it.

End of story.

A linear story to be precise.

Tomorrow, we will start something new, something supposedly better.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Only if we also pay equal amount of attention to continuity.

Last year, Andrew Russel, the author of Open Standards and the Digital Age (2014), wrote an essay together with Lee Vinsel, an assistant professor of science and technology studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.

The essay, that was published on the digital magazine Aeon, was given the title “Hail the Maintainers”. They have noticed that today’s society have embraced innovation a little bit too much while putting maintenance at a less glamorous place. And the subtitle says it all: Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for most lives it is maintenance that matters more.

They had come to believe that excessive fascination towards innovation had led to a mountain of dubious scholarships and magical thinking.

In the case of advertising industry, it’s hard not to notice the mountain of works related to the belief that we must always create something entirely new all the time.

Brands are struggling to manage their overlapping digital assets –at least in Indonesia- and the internet is full of expired campaign websites. Not to mention countless efforts for one off technological innovation -for technology sake- done by ad agencies.

But it is not about being anti-new nor to be in an opposition to creativity. Not the slightest. It is about putting a perspective on what innovation and technology can really help our job to launch a campaign and –not less important- maintaining the cycle of the platform.

And in the process, creating something fresh consistently. Inventiveness and continuity actually should work together.

For example, a technological innovation could help a campaign to get the public attention or solve a specific problem, but what we do next with what we know about the consumers –in short data- will help us to consistently come up with ways for brands to have a meaningful role in the life of consumers and give us ideas on what to innovate next. And if all these efforts are integrated into one system, we are actually creating an ecosystem for the brand to grow. Just like plants grow in a circle of sun, wind, soil and rain.

Instead of focusing our energy only in creating one off sensations, the way to create real change in the world is to help our clients to build long term platform for their brand. And because it’s big enough to be long term, it will inspire millions. One very successful example of this is Nike Plus.

It is innovative, it is relevant to Nike’s target market, and it is still being in use years after it was introduced to the market. And the more people use it, the more useful it gets. More importantly it gets millions of people to live a more active lifestyle.

Even IDEO, a firm that constantly champions innovation, now invites everyone to pay more attention to continuity and sustainability. It recently came up with The Circular Design Guide ( where the Silicon Valley headquartered company argues that the future is circular. Circular design, circular economy, circular everything.

By changing the way we think from linear to circular, we actually shift our approach to be more restorative and regenerative. It’s a way of thinking that encourages us to design a solution in a loop where the feedback will create something ‘new’. Just like how Patagonia outdoor wear have grown their business through repair and refurbish service.

Looking at it from where we stand, things could really get interesting. By applying the circular way of thinking, we will put ourselves in a position to think long term and think everything through.

A position where we will need to propose brand building solutions that are genuinely useful for the clients and relevant for the consumers for years to come. By putting equal importance on the act of creation and maintenance, we could shorten the distance between creativity and effectiveness. Some of us might already explore this possibility and it looks like it worth to be explored even more. Who knows what will we come up with? This will help us to fully integrate our work to the flow of everyday life of the consumers.

And if everything in life moves and grows in circular way –like energy- why should our effort to build brands must always be linear?

The writer is Nugroho Nurarifin, executive creative director from Grey Indonesia.

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